Recently I went to Bali to do some yoga (new years resolution No. 1) and was inspired to view my lifestyle and way of taking care of myself with different eyes. Ubud is an artists village and resort in the hills of Bali. The residents there have lived in the area since the beginning of time and spiritual practices come before rice growing, eating, working and anything else. Everyone walks at half the pace of a New Yorker, not slow – just aware. Everybody smiles, except perhaps the odd foreigner who is struggling with the humidity, but even they will forget the discomfort after a few days and smile along with all the others.

I was in Ubud to give a kick start to practising yoga on a regular basis, again. For the past twenty years, I have intermittently practices various forms of yoga, but never regularly. At forty-four I figure I might have another forty years to go, and I want these to be the best ever. You know when someone asks you what you would do if you could be twenty-five again and knew everything you know now, how much difference it would make? Well, I gather being around forty or so is the ideal opportunity to be twenty-five again (even if it is only a mental projection) and ‘do’ life with the knowledge of a forty year old. My aim is to feel better at fifty than I felt at twenty-five. (Whether 40 or 50 or 60 the same can apply)

So, let’s say I have gone to sleep and wake up in the morning and I’m twenty-five and I remember everything; my brain is forty-four. I know that at around thirty I am going to get severe Ulcerative Colitis, and I will be spending the following ten years wondering whether my life is worth living. I realise I can’t control everything in my life, but here I have been given a chance to make a big difference to my health in the future. What would you do?

This is what I would do (keeping in mind, I know what I know)

Stop drinking alcohol

Stop smoking

Party not as hardy

Eat healthier (moderating my diet with the SCD)

Practice yoga

See a therapist


Now, let’s get back to the present and apply the above projection to the future we have left. The mirror might not allow us to pretend that we are twenty-five, but the principle can still be applied. Most of us have at least twenty years left, to do the best we can and feel better than ever. Thankfully, I gave up smoking sixteen years ago, and I don’t drink anymore, I eat much healthier (SCD) and do not party hardy. I am fulfilling new years resolution No. 1 and am practising yoga regularly which includes meditation; and my therapist is working on the emotional healing I still have to do. This is keeping me in remission. And yet there is more to add to the process of healing and something we rarely think of either at twenty-five or in our later life – loving ourselves! I have always cringed when I have heard this term. It sounded self-possessed and just far too touchy-feely. Which brings me back to Bali….

The Balinese have an obvious love for themselves. Matter of fact they love themselves so much that it spills over on to everyone around them. I finally got it: “You have to love yourself before you can love others” meant that you had to love yourself so much that you always had more than enough love to give to others. And how does this relate to health? Well, scientists have proven many times over that a happy organism is a healthy organism. Our body will tell us if we are doing the right thing by ourselves. That bottle of wine might have made us happy for a few hours one night, but the next day we are feeling miserable. Loving ourselves is taking care of ourselves, the way you would take care of a vulnerable child. Those of us suffering from severe digestive disorders need to understand that food is the first step, lifestyle the second, physical health the third and emotional health the fourth. No matter which one of these comes first, all of them add up to loving oneself and when it starts to spill over pass some on to the next person.